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Roads: New river crossing gets private funds

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Coastal residents will find out Monday if reports are true that private funding is available for construction of a new Waccamaw River crossing in southern Horry County.

The project, known as the Southern Evacuation Lifeline, would connect Bypass 17 with Highway 701.

Funding has been offered and plans are to build the connector and operate it as a toll road, said a person familiar with the project who declined to speak on the record.

Howard Barnard, an Horry County Council member and chairman of the highway task force, wouldn’t confirm or deny the report, but promised an exciting announcement on Monday, following a meeting of the group.

“You don’t want to miss it,” Barnard said.

The meeting will begin at noon at the Surfside Beach Library.

“It’s been a while since the chairman has called a meeting of the task force, so I would assume the announcement will be something significant,” said Georgetown County Council Member Jerry Oakley, the group’s vice chairman. He said he doesn’t know if funding for the highway has been secured and is waiting on the meeting like everyone else.

According to proponents of the highway, it is needed for the safety of Waccamaw Neck and southern Horry County residents.

Based on data from the 2000 Census, it would take about 26 hours to completely evacuate the coastal areas the highway is being designed to serve, and with the large increase in population since then, it would likely take a lot longer.

That’s time residents and visitors might not have if a hurricane is approaching, even with advances in hurricane forecasting, proponents say.

Opponents of the highway worry that it will destroy wetlands, fragment wildlife habitats and degrade water quality.

The task force was formed in 2006 and is working in conjunction with the S.C. Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration.

Public hearings were held in the fall of 2008 to get input on the “preferred route” for the highway, which would begin in Surfside Beach, near The Lakes subdivision and Holmestown Road on Bypass 17.

For more information about the Southern Evacuation Lifeline or to comment, visit www.southernevacuationlifeline.com

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